March 15, 2008

Does Qik change everything?

If you’re not already familiar with it, check out Qik. It’s an application and web service that lets you stream video from a mobile phone to the web, live. Why is this important? For me it’s one of these wow-this-could-revolutionise-journalism moments. It’s similar to the widespread adoption of cameraphones during the past few years – […]

March 11, 2008

‘Citizen journalism’ without the scare quotes…

It’s good to be back at the Frontline Club. My first encounter with the club was when I was invited to speak at an event way back in September 2005, when citizen journalism/user-generated content/blogging was a hot topic and Scoopt, the company I had started two months earlier, was part of the buzz. It was […]

March 11, 2008

Frontline students

Students from the University of Indiana descended upon the Frontline Club this week to meet and talk with New York Times London Bureau Chief John Burns. John treated them to a talk about his experiences as a war reporter and about “embedding”. One of the students, Rosemary Pennington, blogged her thoughts about the talk and […]

March 11, 2008

The Pickup

On Friday I stopped. After two months haring around Kenya, diving in out of slums and driving throuugh the Rift Valley I simply stopped. And went to Lamu for the weekend. My body responded by making me sleep for long periods of time and then making me vomit. Anyway, I managed to polish off the […]

March 6, 2008

Getting into Colombia’s top security jail

Contacts are often made at the bar after a few stiff drinks (well, that’s what I tell myself) but in this case, it started on the golf course. I’d promised The Financial Times to get an interview with any one of Colombia’s notorious ex-paramilitary warlords who were in jail. “That would be gold dust,” said […]

March 5, 2008

Africa Reading Challenge

Siphoning Off A Few Thoughts is hosting an Africa Reading Challenge. The idea is to read six books this year which are about Africa, set in Africa, written by an African etc and then post reviews. I wish I had a few more imaginative books sitting in my unread pile: Elizabeth David’s Provincial Nile Cuisine, […]

March 3, 2008

From the NATO Review

I’ve cross-posted this on the Frontline blog. Vaughan features in an article in the latest edition of NATO Review. Vaughan discusses how he got into journalism, military minders and the importance of independent reporting, Managing correspondents in the field has become very much more complex, not least through the expansion in the size of the […]

March 2, 2008

How Not to Write About Africa

It’s difficult to know where to begin with an NPR correspondent’s recent justification for using the term “Dark Continent” in a preview of George W’s trip to Africa. “I had no idea the term would be found offensive,” said Cochran, who joined NPR in 1981. “I will concede antiquated but I was unaware it was […]

March 1, 2008

Geldof Shines a Light on Africa

Great piece by Bob Geldof in this week’s Time on George W’s Africa policy. It starts with a slightly terse exchange between the two… I gave the President my book. He raised an eyebrow. “Who wrote this for ya, Geldof?” he said without looking up from the cover. Very dry. “Who will you get to […]

February 28, 2008

Great war painting up for auction

An historic painting, called Incident at Bullecourt, by war artist Mervyn Napier Waller goes up for sale next month. The painting depicts Australian and Scottish soldiers on the front line in France during World War I. It’s unusual in that the artist painted it with his left hand after the right was blown off. It […]

February 27, 2008

Don’t be a whiner

From the Digital Journalist way back in 2003, war reporter Joseph L. Galloway gives sage advice to wannabe war reporters on what to carry and how to avoid being killed. I’ve extracted a few highlights, Strive to look as much like a private of whatever service you are travelling with. You do NOT want to […]

February 21, 2008

Things I’d Like to Believe But Can’t

The road from the airport home was mercifully empty tonight. I arrived back in Nairobi at about 7-15pm just when you expect roads to be clogged with cars, matatus and trucks. But apart from three police checkpoints and the inevitable accident (the law requires drivers to leave their vehicles in situ until a police officer […]

February 17, 2008


It feels like the least fun Christmas Eve ever here in Islamabad tonight. Voting in the Pakistani general election is due to start in ten hours, and every TV channel is running election coverage. They seem to have run out of new things to talk about, as such programmes do, but the tickers along the […]

February 17, 2008

The Point of Poetry

Call me a Philistine, but I’ve never much seen the point of poetry. Sure the War Poets did some good stuff. But when you are capable of stringing together sentences into a few coherent paragraphs why bother chopping it into lines and verses? It seems a bit, well, contrived. Maybe it takes a war? Whatever. […]

February 16, 2008

Kenya’s Aid Irony

Nairobi is the aid hub for East Africa and the Horn. The city is filled with charity workers flitting to Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and so on. Its vast United Nations complex is reckoned to be one of the biggest contributors to the city’s economy. But when it comes to tackling a […]

February 12, 2008

Can You Give Me A Receipt – Oh and What’s Your Tribe?

Muindi is Kamba. Frank is Taita. And the two Johns are Kikuyu. The tribal identity of my taxi drivers in Nairobi never used to matter much. It would make for an interesting diversion to discuss stereotypes on long journeys: who is the faster out of Kamba and Kalenjin, or why exactly do Kikuyus confuse their […]

February 1, 2008

Colombians mobilize.

Millions of Colombians are expected to take to the streets on Monday in a protest march organized by several young Colombians on Facebook. The country’s main squares and thoroughfares will be filled with marchers dressed in white by midday. Joining Colombians, the march organizers say they have over 200,000 people signed up to simultaneously march […]

January 28, 2008

Media Guardian Innovation Awards

Stepping in for Vaughan here…. and have crossposted on the Frontline blog…. Here’s some great news. Club founder and journalist whizz of the old school, Vaughan Smith, is up for a gong at the inaugural Media Guardian Innovation Awards, or MEGAs, for his live blogging, video reports, twittering and picture taking from the frontline on […]

January 19, 2008

Arctic motoring – 19/01/08

The temperature hovered around minus twenty, and the roads were layered in ice. But even at two in the morning the car rental agent in the bowels of Ted Stevens international airport at Anchorage managed a pearly smile. Perhaps it had something to do with the financial knife he was holding at my neck. “Oh, […]

January 17, 2008

Letters from the jungle

Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate who has dual French-Colombian citizenship, is perhaps Colombia’s most well-known hostage. She was kidnapped along a motorway with Clara Rojas, her aide, six years ago while on the campaign trail. Her two children continue to campaign for her release. Last October, Ingrid wrote a letter to her mother in […]

January 13, 2008

Topsy-Turvy Mishaps – 13/01/08

It came out of the blue and just as we were finally beginning to enjoy the drive. Without warning the rear wheels lost traction and shot violently to one side. Then our large, heavily-laden pick-up truck slewed onto the opposite side of the road. I counter-steered as gently as I could, trying to keep the […]

January 10, 2008

The story of news

[video:youtube:3VIdKIBN2Ms] The Washington Times goes inside the Newseum with Newseum Executive Director & Senior Vice President Joe Urschel. He claims the Newseum is the “most interactive museum in the world” The video includes film of an armour plated truck used by TIME Magazine photographers during the war in Bosnia that was hit by a mortar […]

January 8, 2008

Is our media dying?

[video:youtube:e09PxmPJ-Tg] Not all the indicators agree with the sentiment shown in the Simpsons video, but many of the American ones do.

December 27, 2007

Postage stamp journalists

The American Postal service recently announced its 2008 range of stamps. A number of American foreign correspondents will appear on next year’s stamps, Martha Gellhorn, who covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War in a long career that broke new ground for women; John Hersey, whose most famous work, “Hiroshima,” […]

December 19, 2007

Stay Alert

[video:youtube:BM171IMYuKc] Recently released promovid from the rather good Reuters AlertNet service. Great for “news before it’s news” with over 400 aid agencies contributing. If you don’t already use the service, it’s certainly worth a look. via IJNet

December 16, 2007

Ice patches and Inverters – Dec 07

It’s been a week of close calls and minor disasters here in our beautiful little corner of the universe. Just as we thought the learning curve was beginning to flatten out. Since moving to the ranch nearly two incident-strewn years ago, we have struggled through floods, fought off erosion, cowered under the debris of forest […]

December 8, 2007

A journey through Putin’s Russia part 4

We arrived in Tyumen early morning after another overnight train ride and were greeted by our next guide, a BP interpreter who on first impressions appears to be a bit of a snob, but we warmed to her slowly, first impressions after a rather sleepless journey can mess with your judgement skills. After checking into […]

December 7, 2007

A Journey through Putin’s Russia Part 3

For the next stage of our trip we took another train to Yekaterinburg for about 24 hours in second class where we had to share a compartment with an elderly couple Konstantin and Galia on their way to the oil town of Nizhnevartovsk for a wedding. They shared with us their food for journey including […]

December 6, 2007

The Finer craft of Foreign Correspondence

Over at the brainfilled Yale College in the States it appears that former Washington Post embed in Iraq, Jonathan Finer LAW ’09 and self-confessed “burned out” reporter, is set to teach a residential-college seminar titled “The Craft of Foreign Correspondence.” If Finer Law ’09 could have his way, the course would have more of a […]

December 3, 2007

A Journey through Putin’s Russia Part 2

Our drive to Samara is helped along grandly by our miserable second Tatar translator Ilnur who drones on continuously about Tatar self determination, the Golden Hordes (heard that before), how immorally behaved his other housemates were when he studied in a university in the UK , Islam , and why don’t British Tourists visit his […]